“As we gather here today in this historic, magnificent building, the 50th woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast 50 women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House. Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it...and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.” Hillary Clinton (June 7, 2008, Speech Suspending Political Campaign for President)
EQUAL PAY ACT - Fifty years ago, on June 10, 1963 (one year before the US Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, banning employment discrimination), President Kennedy signed into law the landmark Equal Pay Act, establishing an enforceable, gender-neutral labor standard. The Act obliges employers to pay women and men the same wages when performing jobs that are equal. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 1963, women earned 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. The income gap still exists in a significant way - today, women earn approximately 81 cents for every dollar (black women make just 69 cents and Latinas just 60 cents) made by men.
In 1970, the UK Parliament also enacted an Equal Pay Act which prohibited any less favorable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. The UK Equal Pay Act was repealed in 2010, but its substantive provisions were reproduced in the Equality Act 2010 of Parliament of the United Kingdom.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the White House National Equal Pay Task Force issued a report. While the authors stressed that, toward achieving the benchmark of true gender equality, a great deal of work remains, they also highlighted that:
- In 2012, women’s labor force participation was 57.7 percent (over fifty percent higher than it was in the early 1960s)
- In 2009, nearly 40 percent of managers were women (compared to roughly 15 percent in 1960)
- Women now outnumber men in attainment of Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral Degrees
- Paulette Brown, a partner with Edwards Wildman in the Madison, N.J. office, has been nominated for the presidency of the American Bar Association, beginning in 2015. Her uncontested nomination paves the way for its first woman of color to be elected to the association’s highest position.
- LinkedIn, the popular vocational networking web page, recently surveyed over 400 working women for a global study dubbed What Women Want @ Work. The study’s authors found that a majority – 60 percent – of women across the United States identify work-life balance as the most important factor when defining professional success. Compared to studies performed five to ten years ago, LinkedIn’s results evidence a nearly twenty percentage point shift away from salary as the driving factor for defining success.
- According to a March 2013 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report, under the Affordable Care Act, an estimated 26.9 million women received expanded preventative services, including cancer screening, HPV immunizations, and well-woman services such as screening for domestic violence and counseling, and FDA-approved contraception.
- Since 1979, the first year for which comparable earnings data existed, the gender wage gap has fallen significantly. Still, women continue to earn less than men in nearly every occupation. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor, in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reported that out of 534 occupations listed by the BLS, women out-earn men in only seven professions.
- In 2007, Sarah Thomas became the first female NCAA football official, and two years later officiated the Little Caesar’s Bowl as a line judge. Like in so many professional arenas, one ceiling has been broken but others stubbornly remain. Auspiciously, a number of influential sport publications have reported that Thomas is likely to make her NFL officiating debut in 2014.
- Today, family responsibilities discrimination (FDR) – which includes pregnant women or mothers and fathers who seek an active role in family care - is a growing area of legal activity. In the decade prior to 2008, FDR suits grew 400 percent. Moving into the realm of class actions, plaintiffs have won settlements as high as $256 million. One class of sales representatives for a major pharmaceutical company obtained a $175 million settlement in a case where a class representative reported that her manager said he preferred not to hire young females, stating, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes flex time and a baby carriage.”
- A report by Joan C. Williams, the director of UC Hastings’ Center for WorkLife Law, which will soon to be published in the Yale Law and Policy Review in 2014, has found that, today, women have new rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. For example, a group of doctors and lawyers have come together to create resources to save pregnant women’s jobs, for example a set of model downloadable Pregnancy Accommodation Notes that will assist physicians navigate disability laws in ways that give fair notice to employers and protect the rights of pregnant women.